Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The 1910 John M. Bowers House - 45 East 65th Street

On July 16 1909 Benson B. Sloan sold the old brownstone house at No. 45 East 65th Street "and part" of the four-story house next door at No. 63 to John Meyer Bowers.   The portion of the abutting property would make possible a more commodious, 28-foot wide new dwelling.  The architectural firm of Hoppin & Koen was hired to design a six-story brick and limestone residence at a cost of $50,000, or about $1.45 million today.

Born in Cooperstown, New York in 1850, Bowers was a noted lawyer.  The house in which he was born, Lakelands, was built in 1804 and sat on property granted to Henry Bowers by the British Crown.   John Bowers's wife, the former Susan Dandridge, had a Colonial pedigree as well.  She was descended from Alexander Spotswood, a Colonial Governor of Virginia, and Martha Dandridge, who married George Washington.  The couple had five grown children.

Sadly, Susan Bowers would never see her new home.  On September 14, 1909, one month before the plans were filed, she died at Lakelands.

The 65th Street house was completed the following year.  Hoppin & Koen had produced a dignified neo-Georgian residence.  A rusticated limestone base upheld four stories of red brick.  A full-width stone balustrade gave the impression of a balcony at the second floor.  Two intermediate cornices, one quite prominent with stone brackets, framed the fourth floor.  Another balustrade introduced the mansard level with its three copper-clad dormers.

By social protocol Bowers's period of mourning extended to fall 1910.  Only months afterward, on July 28, 1911 The Evening World reported "To friends in New York and other cities the news will come as a surprise that John M. Bowers of the legal firm of Bowers & to marry again.  In Christ Episcopal Church, in Cooperstown, N. Y., to-morrow morning he will make Miss Kate Starkweather his bride."

The newspaper said that the bride "belongs to one of the oldest and most prominent families in that part of the State" and pointed out "She is about half the age of Mr. Bowers and is very pretty and popular in society."

The newlyweds were entertaining in the 65th Street house that winter season.  On February 19, 1912 they hosted a dinner followed by dancing with John's son William as guest of honor.

Already well known in upstate society, Katharine Bowers became prominent in Cooperstown.  On July 6, 1913, for instance, the New-York Tribune reported "Mrs. John M. Bowers has been giving a round robin tennis tournament at Lakelands every morning and afternoon this week."

Lakelands, the 1804 Cooperstown country home.  from the collection of the Library of Congress

Although Bowers was already well known within the legal community, he garnered national attention in 1915 when he defended former President Theodore Roosevelt in a libel suit brought by politician William Barnes.   Roosevelt had publicly accused Barnes of being "a corrupt, obnoxious political boss."  Barnes sued for $50,000 in damages--more than $1.3 million today.

The highly publicized, five week trial began on August 19, 1915.  Bowers did not deny that his client had made the remarks, or say that they were expected campaign rhetoric.  Instead he explained in clear detail that the accusations were factual.  Bowers was triumphant and the former President was acquitted.  The New-York Tribune said Bowers's defense "is described by all who heard it as a 'masterly oration.'"

With World War I raging overseas, in 1917 Congress enacted a "draft law."  John M. Bowers was appointed to do the legal work in forming the Selective Service.  It was a daunting project with limited time to complete.  On March 9, 1918 The Sun reported "Another distinguished civilian has given his life for his country just as truly as though he had been killed in action as a uniformed soldier fighting the German foe.  John M. Bowers, one of the leaders of the New York bar, is dead as a result of overwork in connection with the selective draft."  

Bowers was 68 years old.  He left an estate estimated at around $17 million in today's dollars.  Before the year was up Katharine had sold the 65th Street house to lawyer Thomas Ewing.  On December 7, 1918 the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported that he "contemplates the erection of a private residence" on the site.

Attorney Thomas Ewing original source unknown

As it turned out, any plans to demolish the eight-year old residence were discarded.   The names of Ewing and his wife, the former Anna Phillips Cochran, would appear in social columns not only for their entertainments, but for the marriages of their maturing children.  The first to leave home was William Francis Cochran Ewing.  The 24-year old was married to Emily Fordyce Dodge in Mount Kisco, New York in June 1923.  The groom's brother, Thomas, Jr., was his best man and his sister, Ellen, was a bridesmaid.

The year 1925 was a busy one for the Ewing household.  On January 6 the New York Telegram and Evening Mail announced that Thomas and Anna had hosted a dinner at Pierre's "for their son, Mr. Sherman Ewing, and his fiancée, Miss Mary Peavy Heffelfinger."  

That winter was Ellen's debutante season; but before those events came parties that followed the announcement of Gifford Cochran Ewing's engagement to Frances Leverich Riker in November.

Ellen finally got her time in the spotlight.  On December 5 her mother gave a debutante reception in the 65th Street house, and the following week, on December 12, she was given a dinner and a dance at the Colony Club.  The Yonkers Statesman reported "At the dinner were about seventy-five friends and relatives."

Anna Ewing had little time to rest.  The following year on December 28 son Thomas was married to Lucia Hosmer Chase in Waterbury, Connecticut.  Guests came from as far away as Chicago, Cincinnati and Washington, D. C.  Eleanor Taft, daughter-in-law of former President William Howard Taft, was the maid of honor.

In November 1929 the Council on Foreign Relations purchased No. 45 East 65th Street.  The New York Times remarked "This modern six-story house will provide a permanent home for the council.  One of its features will be a reference library on international affairs, and it will provide facilities for the carrying on of the council's research program as well as for its conferences and round-table meetings."

With the world having experienced a catastrophic world war, the focus of the Council on Foreign Relations was "the scientific study of foreign relations."  It backed the publication of the Quarterly Review of Foreign Affairs, the Annual Survey of American Foreign Relations, and the Political Handbook of the World.  Its co-presidents were Elihu Root and John W. Davis.

On November 28, 1930, following interior alterations by the architectural firm of Delano & Aldrich, the organization moved in.  In his remarks Elihu Root said in part, "The establishment of this building and the centering of the work of the Council on Foreign Relations here indicates the appreciation of a truth very widely neglected and that the work of improving the foreign relations of the civilized man is necessarily very slow and laborious and difficult."

The title to the property was transferred in 1945 to the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.  Founded in 1921 for the "perpetuation of Wilson's ideals," it provided grants to groups and individuals.  The organization remained in the former mansion until 1963 when it moved to Princeton University.  In October that year The New York Times announced that the Foundation had sold the property to realty investor Fred H. Hill.

No. 45 East 65th Street now became home to the Institute for Rational Living.  Renovations were made which resulted in "psycho-therapy-educational classrooms" and a "school for emotional education" in the basement through third floor.  The floors four through six became residential space for two families.

The former Bowers mansion was sold again in February 2013 for around $20 million.  A renovation completed in 2018 returned it to a single-family home.

photographs by the author

Common Buildings With Uncommon Fire Escapes - 233-235 Ninth Avenue

Around 1850 two mirror image Italianate buildings were erected on the west side of Ninth Avenue, between 24th and 25th Streets.  Faced in red brick and trimmed in brownstone, each had a store at street level and "flats," or apartments above.  Identical cast metal cornices completed the design.  At some point, most likely in the first decade following the Civil War, ornate cast iron fire escapes were installed.  They spanned the two center windows, so should fire break out in one building its residents could clamber over to the other.  The firewall between the two structures would at least slow the fire's progress until the tenants could escape to the street.

The fire escapes constitute industrial Victorian artwork.

Despite the buildings' proximity to the upscale homes of West 23rd Street (including the 1845 row of mansions called London Terrace), Nos. 215 and 217 Ninth Avenue filled with working class families.  (The buildings received new addresses in 1868--233 and 235.)

By 1855 August Kallendorf lived above his grocery store in No. 215.  Another grocer, John C. Middendorf, also lived in the building and may have been employed by Kallendorf.  Next door lived Thomas Crudden and his family.  A bootmaker, it appears he also operated his store in the ground floor space.

Although he still lived at No. 215 in 1857 August Klattendorf had moved his grocery to Spring Street.  The store was now operated by Richard Fulle.  And the boot store in No. 217 was now home to Joseph McElroy's shoe business.  (McElroy lived nearby on West 25th Street.)

In the early 1860's Joseph McElroy moved his shoe store to No. 198 Ninth Avenue.  His former shop became home to May Keziah's fancygoods store.  The grocery next door at No. 215 was now operated by Henry Baumann under the name Baumann & Co.

In the meantime, the upper floors housed a variety of blue collar tenants.  In 1861 saloon owner Joseph T. Martin, shoemaker Henry Miller, and James Weir, a clerk, lived in No. 215; while next door were another clerk, Henry Hull, policeman William Jenkins, and Levi S. I. Roome, a smith.   The following year, on January 9, 1862, Jenkins's funeral was held in his family's rooms.  He was just 38-years old.

The houses were lost in foreclosure in February 1864.  The auction sale described them as "the valuable four story Buildings, 215 and 217 Ninth avenue."  While Henry Baumann continued running his grocery store at No. 215, with the change in landlords the store space at No. 217 became home to John Roche's saddlery shop.  Like Baumann, he would here, selling leather goods like harnesses, into the next decade.

Both buildings were owned by Anne F. Blanchet until her death around 1882.  On March 2, 1883 her estate sold the properties to Ahrend F. Meyer and his wife, Sophie.  The couple paid $32,000, or about $843,000 today.  The store at No. 233 became T. Brown's bakery in 1885.  By 1893 it was home to Frederick Meyer's grocery store.  (He was quite possibly a relative of his landlords.)  In 1897 Solomon Cohen leased the space next door for his pawn shop.

photo by Beyond My Ken

For the most part the upstairs tenants continued to be hardworking and respectable.  But occasionally a rogue moved in--like Harris Palmer.  Late on Saturday night, January 12, 1889 the assistant foreman of the Street Cleaning Department, Robert Burke, was standing at the corner of 39th Street and Ninth Avenue in the shadows.  The Press reported "he saw a young man teach a hunchback to pick pockets."  The instructor was 22-year old Harris Palmer.  Both he and the 18-year old hunchback were arrested.

Another tenant made the news nine months later.  On November 4 The Evening World reported "Leo Haunel, of 233 Ninth Avenue, bookkeeper for Banker George Weber...was held for trial at the Tombs to-day on his employer's charge that he stole 4,800 two-cent postage stamps, given him to use on the mail."  (The embezzlement would be equal to about $2,750 today).

Ahrend and Sophie Meyer sold No. 233 to David Lubelsky on February 1, 1897, while retaining ownership of No. 235.  David and Sarah Lubeksly lived in an apartment in the building.    Two years later the innovative fire escapes proved their worth when fire broke out at 6:31 a.m. on September 22, 1899.  The Lubelskys hired architect Charles H. McAfee to make renovations, including some new walls.

The newly-formed paint business of Freidlander & Silverstein opened in the store at No. 233 in December 1902.  Next door Solomon Cohen was still operating his pawn shop.  It had become the center of a well-publicized news story a month earlier.

On the night of November 21, 1902 a cheaply-dressed woman entered the shop.  Unfortunately for Catherine McCluskey, the two men chatting with Cohen were Detectives Butler and Foley.  She laid a glittering diamond and sapphire ring on the counter and asked $150 for it.  Cohen asked her if she knew its value to which she replied, "About $200."  He countered "That ring is worth $1,000.  Where did you get it?"  (That assessment would equal about $30,700 today.)  The Evening Telegram said "He said this loud enough for the detectives to hear, and they at once began to question the woman."

She explained that the ring had been given to her husband by his sister about four years ago.  "She said their money had run low and she wanted to pawn it," said the New York Press.  The detectives were doubtful and Mrs. McCluskey was arrested.

At the station house she admitted that she was employed as a scrubwoman at Madison Square Garden.  One evening following the Horse Show she found the ring in the Vanderbilt box while cleaning up.  She watched the newspapers for notices and a possible reward, but when none appeared she decided to pawn it.  

The temptation was understandable.  The New York Press said "She is married and has six children, the eldest 11 years old, and her husband, Michael, is a longshoreman."  Michael was out of work at the time and there was "little money in the house."  Neighbors told a reporter that "she has always worked hard and has practically supported her six children, her husband having had little success in obtaining work."

The Evening Telegram reported "when told she would have to be locked up, Mrs. McCluskey cried bitterly and then fainted.  She begged the police to send for her youngest child."  What the poor woman had initially seen as a stroke of good luck became even more disastrous.  She was not only held in jail for trial, but was fired from her job.

The following spring Arhend and Sarah Meyer sold No. 235 to Solomon Cohen.  He would continue operating his pawn shop here into the 1920's.  The store next door was home to Sylvain Metzger's butcher shop by 1915.  He lived upstairs and remained in the space until declaring bankruptcy in March 1921.

Maggie Tweed lived in an apartment in No. 233 in 1906.  She was estranged from her husband, Frank Tweed, a nephew of the infamous Tammany leader William M. "Boss" Tweed.   Frank worked nearby at the Reed Construction Company on West 24th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.  He was summoned to appear in court on July 31 that year for failing to support his wife.  Despite his uncle's vast wealth, he pleaded poverty, saying he earned only $10.50 a week.  He was ordered to pay Maggie $3 of that amount.

Solomon Cohen's pawn shop was taken over by Benjamin Jeffe by 1934.  It was the scene of a terrifying robbery on March 25 that year.  The Rochester Times-Union reported "Four robbers, each carrying an automatic pistol, walked into the pawnshop of Benjamin Jeffe, 235 Ninth Avenue, today, bound four men in the shop and departed with several thousand dollars worth of jewelry."  While the two clerks and two customers helplessly watched, the bandits "leisurely selected jewelry valued at several thousand dollars and other articles, and escaped," reported the North Shore Daily Journal.

photo via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

The two buildings continued to house middle-income families throughout the 20th century.  In the 1980's and '90's the store at No. 233 was home to seafood store, Starfish Enterprises.  In its December 18, 1989 issue New York Magazine recommended its "many varieties of smoke salmon, sliced or whole" and cautioned "Starfish delivers only in the Chelsea area, so stop in and make your selection."

Two years later The New York Times journalist Susan Hermann Loomis reported on a less likely fare--alligator meat.  On January 17, 1990 she wrote "alligator meat has been transformed from an obscure Southern specialty to a dish with cachet, and the market for the meat is booming."  She noted "In the New York region, sources for alligator meat include Starfish Enterprises, 233 Ninth Avenue."

Although the storefronts have been brutally altered and the lintels of No. 233 shaved flat, the upper floors of both buildings retain much of their early 19th century appearance--including those remarkable fire escapes.

photographs by the author

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Sadly Abused 1884 Nos. 254 and 256 West 88th Street

The uppermost floors hint at the homes' proud beginnings above their obliterated basement and parlor levels.  photo via

In 1884 developer Thomas Butler completed a row of seven houses on the rapidly-developing block of West 88th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue.  Designed by Nelson M. Whipple, they were a happy concoction of styles--Renaissance Revival, Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne.  At 18-feet wide, they were about two feet narrower than the standard upscale home; but were nevertheless intended for well-to-do owners.

The symmetry of the A-B-C-D-C-B-A pattern was emphasized by the pairs of homes on each end.  Their slate-tiled, peaked roofs and gables provided a bookend-like effect to the three flat-roofed houses between.  Furthermore, the end homes, Nos. 254 and 266, were fully clad in rough-cut brownstone while the stone of the four others was planar above the parlor level.

The gabled roof lines of Nos. 254 and 256 set them apart from their flat-roofed neighbors.  photo via

No. 254 was purchased by society photographer George G. Rookwood.  He paid more $725,000 in today's money for the house; but became disenchanted by the end of 1890.  His eagerness to sell was evidenced in his advertisement in The New York Herald on January 14, 1891:

The splendid castellated, swell front, decorated House 254 West 88th st., is worth $27,000; it can be bought now for $23,500 on a payment of $3,000; it is the finest bargain in the restricted district.  

The mention of "the restricted district" referred to the fact that commerce (stores, dressmaker shops, etc.) was prohibited in the immediate area.  At least for now.

When that ad did not produce results, he added a sketch of the property in his advertisement eight months later.

New-York Tribune, September 20, 1891 (copyright expired)

Rookwood's discounted price would equal about $681,000 today.  Nevertheless, he seems to have had no buyers.  His buyer's regret seems to have been induced by the flurry of construction in the area which upset his domestic serenity.  Having given up on selling, on April 28, 1895 Rookwood offered the house for lease for a year:

$1,000 for $1,500 House in the west end -- Owing to building operations same block, causing a slight annoyance for next month, I will rent splendid modern house, 254 West 88th st., for one year.

He found tenant in attorney Chauncy C. Starkweather, who was also learned in classic literature.  Possibly while living here he worked on the "special introduction" to the 1903 World's Great Classics.

In the meantime, bachelors Delan M. Dwey and Tom Karl lived next door at No. 256.  Despite being born in Dublin, Ireland in 1846, Karl had been a well-known Italian opera tenor until his acclaim as Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore in 1879.  He abandoned Grand Opera and turned to operettas and some years later organized the Famous Bostonians, widely considered the greatest light opera company of the time.

Weekly Sunday evening receptions in the house were "notable in artistic society," said The World.  On April 15, 1895 the newspaper reported "An unusually brilliant reception was held last evening at the home of Mr. Tom Karl and Mr. Delan M. Dewey, No. 256 West Eighty-eighth street.  The spirit of the Easter season was manifested in numerous potted plants and cut flowers, with which the drawing-rooms were decorated, and in the character of the musical features."

Ten months later, in February 1896, No. 256 was sold to William J. and Kate Casey.  Following Kate's death in 1903 William remained in the house only briefly and it was soon being operated as a high-end boarding house run by Harriette Little.  An advertisement on July 1, 1905 offered "Superior Accommodations and high class table for gentlemen or couples in home of refined party."

On January 5, 1911 the Shatz Auction Rooms held a sale of the "high grade furnishings" of No. 256, including "elegant parlor, bedroom, dining room and library suite."  It presaged the changes to the neighborhood, which was no longer "restricted,' and to the once-proud home.  A month later it was sold and architect C. Jackson was hired to remodel the structure for commercial purposes.

The stoop was removed, as were the basement and parlor floor facades.  A new four-foot extension housed a ground floor store and second floor office.

In 1925 the Demand Dress manufacturer operated from the address.  That summer it advertised "Dresses--$10.75, big stock on hand, prints and flat crepes; catering to jobbers."  Around the same time Max Weiss ran his fur business here.

Weiss and his wife, Rose, lived at No. 609 West 189th Street with their two daughters.  Rose had originally helped in the business, but following the birth of their daughters, she stayed at home.  She would later say "That was, I suppose, my mistake."

In August 1929 Weiss left the house and told Rose he was going to Long Island to see a customer.  He never came home.  In their search for the missing man police looked for evidence in the West 88th Street shop.  Surprisingly, the vault where well-to-do women stored their furs during the warm months was empty.  "In his desk were pawn tickets," said The Daily News on September 6.

The newspaper wrote "The women who stored their sables and minks, their seals and silver foxes, with Max Weiss, furrier, of 256 West 88th st., are in for a tour of the pawnshops."  An attorney told reporters that "more than $50,000 worth of fur coats and neckpieces" had been pawned.  It was a significant $745,000 in today's dollars.

In the meantime, 32-year old Rose and her daughters were in serious trouble.  "I've been evicted," she told reporters.  "My husband left me no money; my furniture has been moved out."  She had ignored gossip of her unfaithful husband.  "He's probably with another woman; I've been told that."

In 1941 both houses had been converted.  A beauty salon operates from the second floor of No. 254 and an interior decorator from No. 256.  via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

The former Rookwood house, too underwent a severe alteration in 1934.  That year it was converted to a store on the ground floor and three apartments in the upper portion.  The store was leased to the Adelphi Superior Laundry for ten years with a starting rent of $2,500 per year (about $4,000 per month today).  The landlord's blatant racism was evidenced in the lease which read "The lessee may not sell this lease nor sublet to Negroes, Chinese or Japanese, nor employ Chinese or Japanese help on the premises."  The dry cleaner was still in the space well past mid-century.

At the beginning of the 1970's No. 256 was home to The Film Forum, described by New York Magazine on September 11, 1972 as "a non-profit cinema which presents the work of independent young film makers."  

photo via

While the lower two floors of both properties could best be described as eyesores; their upper portions remind the passerby of a time when these houses were home to a society portrait photographer and a well-known operatic tenor.

The Lost San Remo Hotel - Central Park West and 75th Street


Real Estate Record & Guide, December 20, 1890 (copyright expired)

The economic potential of the rapidly developing new neighborhood known as the West End prompted developers to purchase, in some cases, full blockfronts and fill them with long rows of substantial homes.  Following the death of millionaire Joshua Jones his estate placed the vacant block between Central Park West and 9th Avenue (later Columbus Avenue) and 74th to 75th Streets at auction.   The sale created a frenzy.  The Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported on January 12, 1889 "Never did an auction sale of New York city property create greater interest...Never was such a sight seen in the annals of real estate as the eager, hustling, excited crowd that thronged to overpouring the Liberty street salesroom on November 23d last."  

Michael Brennan purchased what was perhaps the most valuable property--the blockfront facing Central Park.  If his announcement of putting up apartment houses on the site caused trepidation to some, The Record & Guide offered calm: "Michael Brennan, the well-known builder, will improve five lots on the Central Park West front with handsome apartment houses which will be an ornament and not a detriment to the block."

Brennan's initial idea of erecting side-by-side apartment houses quickly changed to a single "family hotel" or "apartment hotel."  He hired architect Edward L. Angell to design the 10-story structure which was intended to vie with the best residential hotels in the city.  A year into construction the Record & Guide commented "It towers above every surrounding structure, and vies with the great 'Dakota' apartment house in importance and magnificence."

Residence hotels differed from apartment houses in that they offered the services like maids and hallboys (on hand to carry packages, run errands, etc.).  Residents of the San Remo ate their meals in a common dining room on the top floor which offered sweeping views of the park.  The arrangement eliminated the need for large domestic staffs and the accompanying stress of managing servants.   Residents would keep a small staff, including a lady's maid and butler and at least one maid.  That maid would have available a "complete steam laundry" within the building.

The San Remo would contain about 90 apartments ranging from two rooms and a bath to nine rooms and two bathrooms.  Each of the more than 100 tiled bathrooms had a window.  The apartments were trimmed in oak, sycamore, ash and cherry executed by master woodworker J. S. Roddy (deemed by the Record & Guide "a recognized leader in the art of polishing and finishing hard woods).  Mantels matched the wood in each room.  The main dining room was 50 by 100 feet and the Record & Guide pointed out that there would be "a smaller dining-room for children and nurses."  

The cutting edge building had an "electric plant" (i.e., dynamos) in the basement to power electric lights.  (The fixtures were combination gas and electricity, since even with its own generators electric service was not yet dependable.)  Other innovations were mail chutes in each apartment, so no one needed to walk out his door to mail a letter, and a system for "filtering of the water used for drinking purposes throughout the hotel."

Enjoying the luxurious appointments and amenities did not come cheaply.  Rents in 1891 ranged from $800 to $2,400 per year--about $5,800 per month for the most expensive.

A typical floor plan.  Real Estate Record & Guide, December 20, 1890 (copyright expired)

The San Remo Hotel opened on October 1st, 1891.  An advertisement in the New-York Tribune promised, "There will be no duties, no cares, no eternal worry about servants."  Another ad said "The Hotel is conducted solely for families who wish to avoid the annoyances and inconveniences of 'housekeeping,' and for that reason the suites will not be furnished, but every service, including electric light, steam head and chamber service will be furnished free of charge."

That advertisement boasted "This model family hotel has no parallel in its unique and splendid appointments," and added "From the upper stories of the hotel the waters of the Hudson, and those marvels of nature, the 'Giant Palisades,' can be plainly seen."

The Tribune Monthly, June 1892 (copyright expired)

There were now three great apartment buildings on Central Park West--the San Remo, the Dakota, and the Navarro Flats.  The Sun's Guide to New York in 1892 said "These apartments are typical of the more sumptuous sort" and opined that they were the result of the recent "insufficient supply of domestic servants."

Residents of the southernmost apartments would have to endure the inconvenience of construction before too long.  On October 13, 1894 The Record & Guide reported that Brennan had purchased adjoining lots on 74th Street for $90,000 (about $2.7 million today).  "Mr. Brennan will erect on the lots a ten-story addition to the hotel."

No matter how upscale, every apartment building or hotel suffered unfortunate press from time to time.  Among the initial residents of the San Remo were Enrique Bregaro and his wife, the former Sophie Tegner.  Born in Italy, Bregaro was a partner with his brother in the commission firm of Bregaro & Co., headquartered in Puerto Rico.  The firm imported large amounts of sugar, coconuts and molasses to New York.

While the San Remo was under construction, Bregaro had boarded in the house of the widowed Naomi Tegner.  On September 3, 1892 he married her daughter, described by The New York Times as "a handsome blonde, about forty years old."  The newlyweds moved into the San Remo upon its completion in October.

Shortly afterward Bregaro experienced back problems and sought treatment.  His physician told him it was not serious, but Bregaro, according to friends, "expressed the fear that he would be permanently crippled, and this thought upon which he brooded without good cause, made him at times, morose and melancholy."

On the morning of December 6 Bregaro got out of bed, put on his trousers and slippers and went into the dressing room.  A few moments later Sophie was startled by a gunshot.  "She jumped out of bed, and running into the dressing room, found her husband lying on the floor, with the blood gushing from a hole in his right temple."  A widow after only three months of marriage, Sophie "was prostrated by the tragedy" and could not talk to investigators.

An even more shocking incident occurred on January 5, 1897 when a the San Remo's head chef got into a heated dispute with an employee.  He ended the conflict by stabbing the servant with a kitchen knife.  Thomas Grassingen made it home to Second Avenue but then, realizing that he was dying, sent for a doctor to take his ante-mortem statement.  (An ante-mortem statement was necessary in the 19th century to prosecute such a case.)

Another employee-gone-wrong was bellboy John F. Hart.  Lillah Smith was out of her apartment between 5:00 and 10:00 p.m. on June 31, 1897, and when she returned she found her jewelry was gone.   The following day two men pawned jewelry which matched the description for $58.  The shop owner notified detectives who took the items as evidence and arrested the men.  Lillah Smith was taken to Newark where she identified Hart and her jewelry.  Hart broke down and confessed at which point his accomplice, John Hammond, tried to chew up the pawn tickets.  A detective rescued the soggy evidence from his mouth and the young men were imprisoned.

The family of Edward W. Scott lived here by 1899.  A disturbing one-line article appeared in The World on November 8 that year:  "Edward W. Scott, a wealthy importer whose home is at the San Remo hotel, has disappeared and foul play is suspected."  Scott had received a telegram at his office two days earlier "calling him out of town," according to the New-York Tribune.  Knowing he would be back before night, he did not bother to notify his family.  But he did not return home that night.

Scott suffered from what appears to have been the early stages of dementia.  He was found two days later when he asked the gateman at the Fort Lee Ferry where he was.  "He was weak and could not say how he had come there," said the New-York Tribune.  The article went on, "his ideas of locality became somewhat confused, and he was unable to communicate with his family."

Scott was brought home to the San Remo and his family quickly tried to cover up what was at the time an embarrassing medical condition.  His brother told a reporter "My brother had a serious attack of illness some time ago, and he has at times had spells of apparent unconsciousness since.  He is better now, and is on the road to compete recovery."  

Warren D. Hanford and his wife, Alice, were prominent residents.  Born in Vinton, Iowa, Hanford had arrived in New York in 1898 and shortly afterward joined the Mercantile Exchange.  He quickly became its vice-president.  The Egg Reporter would say "He became one of the most successful merchants in the trade."

The couple was married in November 1901 and moved into the San Remo.   Three months later, as had been the case with Lillah Smith, Alice Hanford discovered that pearls and other jewelry were missing.  She left for breakfast on February 8, 1902 and, according to the New-York Daily Tribune, "returned to her apartment and found that her jewel casket, kept in the top drawer of her dresser, had been taken."  She valued the lost items at the equivalent of $153,000 in today's money.  The jewelry, which included a "diamond fleur de lis pin, one large solitaire diamond engagement ring, an old pearl ring surmounted by small diamonds, a pearl necklace, and pair of diamond cuff buttons and a woman's gold watch," were almost all wedding presents.

It did not take detectives long to arrest the elevator boy, 20-year old James Sweeney.  He claimed he knew nothing of the crime.  But his story fell apart after a messenger arrived at the station house with a note for him.  Detectives read the message from Mabel Hyman before delivering it to the prisoner.  Sweeney wrote a return note which was given to the same messenger boy.   Detectives followed him.

Mabel spilled the truth when questioned, implicating a third person, George Marvin, as well.  Both were arrested.  The New-York Daily Tribune reported "Sweeney was furious when he found the woman had told all she knew."  All three confessed.

Happily for Alice, on February 13 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported "The jewels stolen from Mrs. Warren D. Hanford, at the San Remo Hotel...have been recovered and are now held by the police to be used as evidence against James Sweeney, the bellboy, who is charged with the theft."

May Darach lived in the building at the time.  As was the case with most well-to-do women, she was highly involved in charity work.  She was the president of the Settlement House for Crippled Children on West 69th Street and her name routinely appeared in newspapers in connection with the home.

An early postcard shows the San Remo towering above the treetops of Central Park.

Washington M. Haddock was described by The Brooklyn Daily Eagle as "wealthy and a Civil War veteran."  According to staff at the San Remo, it was the custom of the middle-aged man "to take a walk every evening."  But it seems that no one noticed that he did not return on the night of August 5, 1904.  

The following morning at around 4:00 a delivery driver for Swift & Co. was driving up Central Park West when he saw a body lying near the street car tracks in the half-light.  Haddock had died from apoplexy--known today as either a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported "All the jewelry and other belongings were found on the body.  There was no suspicion at all, Dr. O'Hanlon said, of foul play." 

Other well known residents of the San Remo were John R. Foley, partner in the real estate firm John R. & Oscar L. Foley; insurance executive Archibald C. Haynes and his wife, the former actress Minna K. Gale ("who played with Booth and Barrett," according to the New-York Daily Tribune); and husband and wife authors Kathinka Schucking Sutro and Emil Sutro.

Emil Sutro was an expert in speech and language.  His works, like his 1899 Duality of Voice, delved into the minute details of speaking, such as "movements of the tongue," "extirpation," and breathing, as well as addressing speech problems like stuttering.  Following his death in 1906 Kathinka lived on in the San Remo apartment.  She was the author of several novels, including In Two Hemispheres.  She died in her apartment at the age of 75 on March 24, 1910.

In 1904 brick-paved street car tracks run alongside Central Park.  photo by Byron Company, from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

Michael Brennan still owned the San Remo in 1913 when he embarked on significant changes.  The Real Estate Record & Guide reported on October 4 that "The dining-room on the top to be transformed into apartments and a new dining-room installed on the main floor.  That latter will in reality take the place of the present ballroom."  The relocation required a new set of kitchens in the rear of the building.

A bitter feud between the night watchman, Judson E. Rodgers, who had worked there for 12 years, and a porter, John McGoldrick, began in April 1919.  According to Edmund Brennan, Michael Brennan's son and the manager of the hotel, Rodgers felt Brennan showed partiality to McGoldrick, especially in regard to his vacation time.  The tensions grew for three months before snapping at around 5:00 on the morning of July 28.

The two got into a quarrel which ended with Rodgers shooting McGoldrick in the back.  When the body was found by a scrub woman, Bridget Genner, Brennan sent for police.  Detective James Maher arrived and was directed to Brennan's rooms.  Unaware that his boss was still in his apartment, Rodgers had waited in ambush in a hall closet.  As Maher approach Rodgers jumped out, assuming it was Brennan, and fired a shot.  The bullet struck 30-year old detective in the head and he died instantly.  The Evening World reported "Rodgers then shot himself through the head."

The unlucky detective was an unintentional victim. The Evening World, July 28, 1919 (copyright expired) 

At a time when fussy Victorian apartment hotels were falling from favor, the San Remo received an updating, completed in 1921.  The new manager, Robert D. Blackman, boasted of the modernization.  An ad on February 13, 1921 said in part:

For years this hotel had has a splendid reputation--but it needed remodeling, redecorating--and a rearrangement of many of the suites.  All of these things have been done, and in the most up to date and modern manner.  And the meals and the service are as perfect as one can make them.

Another advertisement played up the improvements and put a positive spin on the out-of-date elements, saying "its rooms are old-fashioned in size and new-fashioned in equipment and conveniences," adding, "I often wonder why so many people live in apartment houses when they can have so much more for their money in an up-to-date apartment hotel--the San Remo, in particular."

Among the residents in the remodeled apartments were nationally-known landscape architect Samuel Parsons and his wife the former Martha E. Francis.  Parsons joined the firm of Calvert Vaux in the 1870's, as Superintendent of Planting in Central Park.  In 1905 he was appointed Park Commissioner by Mayor George B. McClellan while doubling as the city's landscape architect.  His work extended beyond New York City to include the design of a 1,400-acre park in San Diego, California.

Muriel Manners was acting in the chorus of Kid Boots on Broadway in 1924.  In November that year she took George Sanchez, described by the Daily News as a "reputed sugar magnate," to court.  According to Muriel, she attended a party with Sanchez where she asked him to watch her bag which held $320.  It was a tidy sum for the showgirl to be carrying around--equal to about $4,780 today.  She got her purse back, but not the cash.  Sanchez's lawyer had promised to return the money, but by November 21 when she told her story to the judge, he had not.

The Daily News, November 22, 1924

A peculiar story appeared in the newspapers in February 1928.  Dr. Thomas Lawton notified police that his wife, Madeline, had left to visit her sister on Sunday, February 12, but never arrived there. Three days later the Times Union said "The doctor visited relatives and friends in a vain effort to trace her."  He told reporters that Madeline had been injured in a train wreck a few years earlier and "has been in a highly nervous condition since."  Newspapers published a description of the 35-year old woman, including the outfit she was wearing when she left the apartment.

The mystery deepened when her sister, Mrs. J. V. Lupo told reporters on February 15 that Madeline had phoned her to say she was well and in New York City.  "She did not give me her New York City address because she did not want her husband to know where she is."  Friends may have thought this suspicious since in leaving her husband she also left their two children, 4-year old Betsy Ann and 7-year old Jane.

Dr. Lawton played on the sympathies of readers with this posed photo of him gazing at his sleeping daughters.  Daily News, February 16, 1928 

But the story seemed to be true when Madeline left a message  at her husband's office.  "Tell the doctor to cut out all this newspaper stuff.  He knows why I have gone away.  I'm not coming back until I'm good and ready."

As the 1920's drew to an end, the Victorian apartment hotel could no longer compete with the sleek Art Deco apartment buildings lining up along Central Park West.  The San Remo was demolished in 1929 to be replaced by its namesake, designed by Emery Roth which survives.

photo by Bilby

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The William Dolan House - 105 West 16th Street

Although Sixth Avenue was opened in the 1820's, the area around it remained rural with only scattered development until the early 1850's.  Around that time a three-story brick-faced house was erected at No. 105 West 16th Street.  Trimmed in brownstone it would have had a short stone stoop above the basement level.  A simple dentiled cornice ran along the roofline.

In 1854 the 25-foot wide house was home John S. Howell.  Born in Pennsylvania, he was the engineer of the steamer Potomska, which routinely traveled between New York and Massachusetts.  

John was returning home on Sunday, October 22, 1854 when a horrific accident occurred.  As the Potomska was pulling into the dock at Pier No. 11 on the North River (later renamed the Hudson River), Howell somehow became entangled in the machinery below decks.  The New-York Daily Tribune reported that his skull was fractured "by being caught between the cylinder and reversing gear of the boat."  He died at just 29 years old.

Briefly following the horrific accident the house was shared by a "boatman," Sylvanus Hudgins, and John H. Westervelt.  Then in 1857 it became home to the Palmer family.

William Palmer was an accountant at No. 10 South Street that year.  He and his wife, Ann, had a son, Henry.  William seems to have received a promotion in 1859 when directories listed him as "clerk," a responsible position.

William Palmer disappears from the directories in 1860 while Ann's name suddenly appears.  Normally only widows or females who ran shops were listed, strongly suggesting that William had died.  Henry was, by now, earning a living as a carpenter.

In 1861 the family of William Dolan moved into No. 105 West 16th Street and would remain for years.   William and his wife, Catharine, had a daughter, Lizzie.  They were financially comfortable enough to summer in West Orange, New Jersey.

Irish Catholics, the Dolans worshiped at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, a block away and it was there, on August 6, 1867 that daughter Lizzie M. Dolan was married to John P. Fleming.  The newlyweds made their home in the 16th Street house.

Lizzie's happiness would be short-lived.  In the summer of 1870, the family was at West Orange.  On Sunday July 3, John P. Fleming died there.  His body was returned to the 16th Street house where the funeral was held the following Wednesday.  Afterward a solemn requiem mass was held at the church where he had been married just three years earlier.

In July 1874 William Dolan died in the house at the age of 75.  His funeral was held in the Church of St. Francis Xavier on July 22.

Catharine remained in No. 105 for another nine years.  By the early 1880's the neighborhood around the elderly widow's home had noticeably changed.  Sixth Avenue, just steps away and once lined with two- and three-story brick houses, was now a thoroughfare of retail shops with a clattering elevated train that ran up the center.

On April 30, 1883 Catharine sold the property to real estate operator James H. Dick for $19,000--or about half a million in today's dollars.  The significant price was most likely more to do with the commercial potential of the property than for its residential value.

Nevertheless, operated as a boarding house, No. 105 avoided major renovation for nearly two decades.  Its tenants were decidedly less refined that the Howells or the Dolans.

Among the initial residents were Ellen and Owen Finnegan.  After the couple got into a physical altercation in the house in January 1885, Ellen had her husband arrested.  According to the New York Herald, she told the judge in Jefferson Market Court on January 3, that she did not care how often he threw his shoes at her, "provided his feet were not in 'em."  The article said "When, like last night, he threw feet and shoes together, it was too much."

Owen could not explain his actions to the judge, saying "I must have done it in my sleep."  The judge replied "Very well!  You may sleep where there are only stone walls to kick for thirty days."

Nineteen-year old Charles Felego lived here in 1891 when was offered a job by Emlie Vallo and Peter Boise who were planning a new place of entertainment on Broadway.  Exactly what Charles's duties were are unclear, but the Artistic Smoke Musee for Gentlemen where he started working on November 14, opening day, could only have been declared "disreputable" by upstanding citizens.

The "museum" had only been opened a few hours when Police Captain Thomas Reilly and Sergeant Sheldon were passing by.  The New York Herald said "the suggestive sign caught their eyes."  They paid the entrance fee and entered.

"On the walls were hung paintings and photographs, and in glass cases were a number of wax figures of the anatomical museum style," said the article.  Captain Reilly blocked the doorway and sent Reilly to the station house for more police.

"When they arrived the place was raided, and all the paintings, figures &c., were bundled into trucks and carried to the West Thirtieth street station."  The proprietors were arrested and young Charles was put in custody of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children."

By the turn of the century a store had been installed in the ground floor of No. 105 West 16th Street.  The building was owned by George and Thomas Kelly of the Thomas Kelly & Co. department store at No. 263 Sixth Avenue, around the corner at 17th Street.  He hired architect William F. Wallace to do renovations costing about $11,000 in today's money in October 1900.

The alterations were for Kelly's new ground floor tenant, Beadleston & Woerz, owners of the Empire Brewery, whose lease began on October 29.  It was common for breweries to operate saloons at the time, giving them a monopoly on the beer and ale sold.  The Beadleston & Woerz saloon would remain in the space until 1912.

The upper floors were now run as a "hotel" by H. D. Roselle.  The term was polite and the activities in the rooms were at best questionable.

In April of 1912 Thomas Kelly leased the entire building to George Casey.  In the space where Beadleston & Woerz's saloon had been for years, he opened George Casey's Cafe--an innocent-sounding establishment.

On June 1, 1912 the Irish community newspaper The Advocate reported "On next Saturday evening the cafe at 105 West Sixteenth street will be officially opened by Mr. George Casey.  The spacious place is being beautifully decorated for the occasion, and his many friends will spend a splendid evening, as Mr. Casey has many good things in store for them."  The article called Casey "a typical Irishman, with a good big heart."

It did not take authorities long to discern that the café was simply a saloon and that the upper floors were a brothel.  On April 3, 1914 Special Excise (i.e., liquor) Agents Joseph G. Mandl and Elias Stiller entered the saloon, purchased a round of drinks, and went to the rear room where there were "about twelve tables and chairs and an automatic piano," according to Stiller's testimony.

About ten minutes later a "blond woman came in unescorted" through the hall door that led to the upstairs rooms.  Introducing herself as Anna, she sat down.  They were soon joined by two another unescorted women, Bernice and Sadie.  Stiller testified in court that the women made "revolting remarks" and "danced, making suggestive motions, raised their skirts and exposed their persons and used vile, profane and indecent language."  When that did not seem to be working, they exposed their breasts (Bernice unbuttoned her blouse and "placed her breast on the table") and "solicited the witnesses for immoral purposes."

On a legal technicality it was not George Casey, but his bartender, Charles Cardow, who was convicted of running a disorderly house, since the excise license was in his name.  The unfortunate bartender had not yet appeared in court for this charge when he was arrested on April 20, 1914 for selling liquor to an intoxicated customer.

Change to the building came soon afterward.  In 1917 Antonia P. Garcia leased what was now termed a store, and the upper floors were converted for small manufacturing.  In October that year the Abronowitz Embroidery Company leased the second floor and Edward Amsterdam took the top floor.

In 1922 Abraham Stern purchased the building.  At the time Weiner & Honick, furriers were operating from the second floor.  That year they advertised "Fur Chokers in "mink, fitch, [or] imitation stone marten" on sale for $2 to $6.  The most expensive would be about $90 today.

The ground floor retail space was vacant when Stern purchased the property.  He offered it for $1,500 rent per month.

In the 1940's the ground floor space was shared by Sam's Hand Laundry on one side and a tailor and furrier shop on the other.

The configuration of the original cast iron storefront survived around 1941.  via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Although the upper floors were never officially converted to apartments, actress Kathleen Murray and her theatrical manager husband Joseph Beruh lived in the building by 1964.  The couple had a son, David Marshall.  

That year Beruh was managing the play The Subject Was Roses, which had debuted at the Royale Theatre on May 25.   Starring Martin Sheen, Irene Dailey and Jack Albertson, it would earn two Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for its playwright, Frank D. Gilroy.  

But on November 9 the couple was more concerned with another issue--Kathleen was about to give birth.  They stood on Sixth Avenue trying to hail a cab to the hospital.  As taxis sped by, producer Norman Twain noticed them and pulled his car over to say hello.  The New York Times reported "within seconds [they] were en route to the hospital."  The couple made it to the hospital in time for the arrival of a baby boy.

Today the peeling paint and altered storefront of the venerable and beleaguered house reveals little of its colorful history of more than 170 years.

photographs by the author

Thursday, September 24, 2020

An "Elegant Flathouse" - 42 Morton Street

In 1887 developer and architect H. M. Tostevin produced two five-story flathouses at Nos. 38 and 40 Morton Street, between Bedford and Hudson Streets.   The brick and brownstone buildings, with their showy decorative elements drawn from a grab bag of historic styles, apparently caught the eyes of Mary E. McLaughlin and her husband, George C. McLaughlin.

The McLaughlins were active in real estate circles--Mary as a developer and agent and George as a contractor.  Two years after Tostevin's buildings were completed, on March 23, 1889, the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported that "G. Louglin" [sic] had hired architect Mortimer C. Merritt to design a three-story $30,000 apartment building next door to them at No. 42 Morton Street.  

The plans changed within a month.  On April 9 The Evening Post reported on Merritt's plans, which now listed Mary E. McLaughlin as owner of record.  The height was now five floors and as a result the cost rose to $35,000 (just around $1 million today).  Completed before the year's end, No. 42 was a near match to Tostevin's earlier buildings.  It could be considered a very early example of homogeneous and sympathetic architecture, or simply brazen copying.

Whichever the case, Merritt produced a visually stimulating design.  The brownstone base was a marriage no fewer than three styles.  Renaissance Revival appeared in the carved panels below the arched openings and in the chunky caryatids with Corinthian capitals.  The undressed brownstone quoins and voussoirs drew from Romanesque Revival and the delicate incised carvings were neo-Grec.

The four upper floors were faced in red brick and trimmed in stone and terra cotta.   The heft of the beefy neo-Grec lintels was softened by bands of cream colored terra cotta.  At the fifth floor the slightly recessed, two-bay central section terminated in a brownstone arch below the exuberant pressed metal cornice.

Each floor held three apartments of four rooms.  Although the building was four years old in February 1893, an advertisement in The Sun described No. 42 as the "Handsomest new, elegantly decorated house in Ninth Ward; portico stoop, private baths and closets; no children."  That the management refused to rent to families with children is somewhat surprising.  And the rent was not inexpensive--the cheapest being about $586 per month in today's money.

Terra cotta, stone and brick combine in the eclectic design.
Interestingly, three years later rental ads still described the building as the "handsomest new elegantly decorated flathouse in the 9th Ward."  Now, however, other amenities were pointed out: hot and cold water and a range.  The rents had not gone up but the restriction on children was still in place.

The initial residents were middle class, like Christopher J. Lane, who lived here by 1894.  He had graduated from the College of St. Francis Xavier a few years earlier and listed his occupation as "lawyer."  He was embellishing just a bit.  In fact, he was a clerk in the law firm of Augustus C. Brown.

Wealthy New Yorkers left the city every summer for cooler resorts like Newport, Bar Harbor and Long Island.  Middle class citizens, like those who lived at No. 42 Morton Street, were not so fortunate and were forced to endure the insufferable and sometimes deadly heat.  A heat wave in early September 1898 was unrelenting.  In the period of just two days, September 3 and 4, 54 New Yorkers died.  Among them was 48-year old Harry Roll who perished in his apartment here.

In the fall of 1897 attorney Oscar Chambers Prendergrast married his "pretty young wife," Anna Shannon, as described by The Brooklyn Citizen.  When Annie, as she was known, became pregnant a few months later Oscar abandoned her.  He begrudgingly agreed to return, but when she became pregnant a second time in 1899 he left again.  With no money, a baby to take care of and another on the way, the 25-year old moved back to her mother's home in Brooklyn.  She pleaded with Oscar to provide her a home, and finally received a letter with an address of an apartment.

On May 23, 1900, with her five-week old infant in her arms, she told a judge "when I found out where the place was it was a sub-basement at No. 42 Morton street.  It was not a place where I could take my children to, and, besides, he had a pal living with him there.  I did not want to go and take my children where there was another man."

Pendergrast had no interest in being a family man.  The Brooklyn Citizen said he "struck a Napoleonic attitude" and "declared excitedly that he had fought in Cuba, that he was the associate of Foster L. Backus, James G[ordon] Bennett and such men, and then dramatically exclaimed, looking down at the faltering young wife who stood tearfully beside him: 'Ye gods, that I should have been brought to such a pass as this!'"

Pendergrast, who represented himself, ranted to Magistrate Steers "I have been penned up over this woman for the last two months."  The article said he "was proceeding with a tirade against his wife when the Magistrate interrupted him, 'If you can't keep quiet I'll send you to jail.'"

He was quiet.

As proof that he had provided Annie with accommodations a letter he had sent to her was shown to the judge.  It read:

As you have not troubled me up to this date I presume there is more crooked work going on.  You who will swear your soul away will no doubt have more fabrications looked up for the court.  I am ready, however, and will hold a copy of this letter to show the court.  The address was given you and is herewith written in plain letters.  If you leave this house never to return after your vile and most disgusting conduct, you can do so.
Oscar C. Prendergast

It gave the address of No. 42 Morton Street.

The plight of young women, especially mothers, in the 19th and early 20th century was evident in Annie's willingness to remain in the abusive relationship and to accept living in the sub-basement of the building.

The judge asked Prendergast, "Will you give your wife a home?"

"The home is there, sir."

Magistrate Steers advised Annie to go to the address and look it over.  "Will my husband come and take me there?" she asked.

Prendergast did not wait for the judge to respond.  "I will not.  I am not going to lose another day's work for you."

Steers told him, "You needn't lose another day's work.  Your wife will go over to the address you give her on Sunday.  You'll let her into the house, get rid of your friend if you can, and the case in the meantime is adjourned until June 14."

That friend did not leave and Annie was still living in Brooklyn when the case came up again.  This time Prendergast told the judge, according to The Brooklyn Citizen, "that his wife had been influenced against him by a 'gang,' but he did not specify who or what the 'gang' was."  And he defended the man who lived in the apartment, saying he "was an old-time friend who was down on his luck and was a physical wreck."

The couple somehow reconciled and would eventually have two more children.  Oscar legally changed his name to Jeffrey Deprend and was still married to Annie when he died on October 20, 1955.

By the first decade of the 20th century No. 42 Morton Street was home to, mostly, Irish-born residents.  Among them were Margaret Stenson and her brother John, who were natives of County Clare.   Margaret was married in St. Joseph's Church on Sixth Avenue on May 13, 1910 to Thomas Murray.  The Irish-American Advocate said that they "are sweethearts since they toddled to school together, some twenty odd years ago, which speaks well for their future happiness."  The newlyweds remained in the Morton Street apartment.  The following year John Stenson, still sharing the address, died in his apartment.

Over the next few decades the tenant list included Irish names like Hear, Keane, Boyle and Fitzmartin.

Jane Holden had an apartment here during World War II.  In February 1945 the federal government institute a nationwide curfew on nightlife.  A United Press syndicated column on February 20 said "The entertainment industry, joining their patrons in the biggest howl since prohibition, grudgingly prepared today to comply with War Mobilization Director James F. Byrnes' 'request' for a nationwide midnight curfew on night life."

Bar and nightclub owners complained loudly.  The Tucson Daily Citizen warned "The return of the speakeasy and the loss of thousands of jobs were cited today by many cabaret proprietors was the logical results" of the curfew.  And indeed, the speakeasy was back.

Jane Holden was 26-years old and not willing to end her night out at midnight.  So she found a Yorkville night spot that operated after hours.  Unfortunately for her, so did the police.  On March 5, 1945 the Daily News ran the headline "Court Stuns 15 Curfew Scoffers with: 'Fined $5'"  The article said "The eight men and seven women had come into court believing this was going to be just a repetition of the old prohibition-time brush-off" and that only the operators would "come to grief."  Instead Magistrate William A. Farrell charged them with disorderly conduct and a fine equal to $70 today.

Little has changed, externally, to Mortimer Merritt's 1889 flathouse.  Inside much of the original detailing has been lost, but the configuration of about four apartments per floor remains.  It provides a fine example of late 19th century taste in middle-class apartment design.

photographs by the author